Dan Rathbone locks the bonds in the company safe, fully aware that $100,000 is a deadly temptation. He’s about to embark on a business trip, and he tells his partner that he only wants to be sure the papers are safe. But when Rathbone goes missing, his partner discovers that the funds have vanished along with him. Has Rathbone skipped town with the bonds, or has he been murdered? The Continental Op will find out the truth—and in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, the truth is always a thorny proposition.
The Continental Op cut a bloody swath across the pages of Black Mask, dealing cool reckoning to anyone who threatened him in his pursuit of the truth. In “It,” “Bodies Piled Up,” and “The Tenth Clew,” the infamous Op dispenses his particular brand of two-fisted justice in the hardboiled style that made Dashiell Hammett a legend.
About the Author
Date of Birth:May 27, 1894
Date of Death:January 10, 1961
Place of Birth:St. Mary, Maryland
Place of Death:New York
Education:Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
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It and Other Stories
Collected Case Files of the Continental Op The Early Years, Vol. 2
By Dashiell Hammett, Richard Layman, Julie M. Rivett
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1984 Pro-Distributors
All rights reserved.
Black Mask, 1 November 1923
Calling a detective to solve a crime that turns out to be something quite different from the first diagnosis makes a very unusual story of this. You'll be surprised!
"Now listen, Mr. Zumwalt, you're holding out on me; and it won't do! If I'm going to work on this for you I've got to have the whole story."
He looked thoughtfully at me for a moment through screwed-up blue eyes. Then he got up and went to the door of the outer office, opening it. Past him I could see the bookkeeper and the stenographer sitting at their desks. Zumwalt closed the door and returned to his desk, leaning across it to speak in a husky undertone.
"You are right, I suppose. But what I am going to tell you must be held in the strictest confidence."
I nodded, and he went on:
"About two months ago one of our clients, Stanley Gorham, turned $100,000 worth of Liberty bonds over to us. He had to go to the Orient on business, and he had an idea that the bonds might go to par during his absence; so he left them with us to be sold if they did. Yesterday I had occasion to go to the safe deposit box where the bonds had been put — in the Golden Gate Trust Company's vault — and they were gone!"
"Anybody except you and your partner have access to the box?"
"When did you see the bonds last?"
"They were in the box the Saturday before Dan left. And one of the men on duty in the vault told me that Dan was there the following Monday."
"All right! Now let me see if I've got it all straight. Your partner, Daniel Rathbone, was supposed to leave for New York on the twenty-seventh of last month, Monday, to meet an R. W. DePuy. But Rathbone came into the office that day with his baggage and said that important personal affairs made it necessary for him to postpone his departure, that he had to be in San Francisco the following morning. But he didn't tell you what that personal business was.
"You and he had some words over the delay, as you thought it important that he keep the New York engagement on time. You weren't on the best of terms at the time, having quarreled a couple of days before that over a shady deal Rathbone had put over. And so you —"
"Don't misunderstand me," Zumwalt interrupted. "Dan had done nothing dishonest. It was simply that he had engineered several transactions that — well, I thought he had sacrificed ethics to profits."
"I see. Anyhow, starting with your argument over his not leaving for New York that day, you and he wound up by dragging in all of your differences, and practically decided to dissolve partnership as soon as it could be done. The argument was concluded in your house out on Fourteenth Avenue; and, as it was rather late by then and he had checked out of his hotel before he had changed his mind about going to New York, he stayed there with you that night."
"That's right," Zumwalt explained. "I have been living at a hotel since Mrs. Zumwalt has been away, but Dan and I went out to the house because it gave us the utmost privacy for our talk; and when we finished it was so late that we remained there."
"Then the next morning you and Rathbone came down to the office and —"
"No," he corrected me. "That is, we didn't come down here together. I came here while Dan went to transact whatever it was that had held him in town. He came into the office a little after noon, and said he was going East on the evening train. He sent Quimby, the bookkeeper, down to get his reservations and to check his baggage, which he had left in the office here overnight. Then Dan and I went to lunch together, came back to the office for a few minutes — he had some mail to sign — and then he left."
"I see. After that, you didn't hear from or of him until about ten days later, when DePuy wired to find out why Rathbone hadn't been to see him?"
"That's right! As soon as I got DePuy's wire I sent one to Dan's brother in Chicago, thinking perhaps Dan had stopped over with him, but Tom wired back that he hadn't seen his brother. Since then I've had two more wires from DePuy. I was sore with Dan for keeping DePuy waiting, but still I didn't worry a lot.
"Dan isn't a very reliable person, and if he suddenly took a notion to stop off somewhere between here and New York for a few days he'd do it. But yesterday, when I found that the bonds were gone from the safe deposit box and learned that Dan had been to the box the day before he left, I decided that I'd have to do something. But I don't want the police brought into it if it can be avoided.
"I feel sure that if I can find Dan and talk to him we can straighten the mess out somehow without scandal. We had our differences, but Dan's too decent a man, and I like him too well, for all his occasional wildness, to want to see him in jail. So I want him found with as much speed and as little noise as possible."
"Has he got a car?"
"Not now. He had one but he sold it five or six months ago."
"Where'd he bank? I mean his personal account?"
"At the Golden Gate Trust Company."
"Got any photos of him?"
He brought out two from a desk drawer — one fullface, and the other a three-quarter view. They showed a man in the middle of his life, with shrewd eyes set close together in a hatchet face, under dark, thin hair. But the face was rather pleasant for all its craftiness.
"How about his relatives, friends, and so on — particularly his feminine friends?"
"His only relative is the brother in Chicago. As to his friends: he probably has as many as any man in San Francisco. He was a wonderful mixer.
"Recently he has been on very good terms with a Mrs. Earnshaw, the wife of a real estate agent. She lives on Pacific Street, I think. I don't know just how intimate they were, but he used to call her up on the phone frequently, and she called him here nearly every day. Then there is a girl named Eva Duthie, a cabaret entertainer, who lives in the 1100 block of Bush Street. There were probably others, too, but I know of only those two."
"Have you looked through his stuff, here?"
"Yes, but perhaps you'd like to look for yourself."
He led me into Rathbone's private office: a small box of a room, just large enough for a desk, a filing cabinet, and two chairs, with doors leading into the corridor, the outer office, and Zumwalt's.
"While I'm looking around you might get me a list of the serial numbers of the missing bonds," I said. "They probably won't help us right away, but we can get the Treasury Department to let us know when the coupons come in, and from where."
I didn't expect to find anything in Rathbone's office and I didn't.
Before I left I questioned the stenographer and the bookkeeper. They already knew that Rathbone was missing, but they didn't know that the bonds were gone too.
The girl, Mildred Narbett was her name, said that Rathbone had dictated a couple of letters to her on the twenty-eighth — the day he left for New York — both of which had to do with the partner's business — and told her to send Quimby to check his baggage and make his reservations. When she returned from lunch she had typed the two letters and taken them in for him to sign, catching him just as he was about to leave.
John Quimby, the bookkeeper, described the baggage he had checked: two large pigskin bags and a cordovan Gladstone bag. Having a bookkeeper's mind, he had remembered the number of the berth he had secured for Rathbone on the evening train — lower 4, car 8. Quimby had returned with the checks and tickets while the partners were out at luncheon, and had put them on Rathbone's desk.
At Rathbone's hotel I was told that he had left on the morning of the twenty-seventh, giving up his room, but leaving his two trunks there, as he intended living there after his return from New York, in three or four weeks. The hotel people could tell me little worth listening to, except that he had left in a taxicab.
At the taxi stand outside I found the chauffeur who had carried Rathbone.
"Rathbone? Sure, I know him!" he told me around a limp cigarette. "Yeah, I guess it was about that date that I took him down to the Golden Gate Trust Company. He had a coupla big yellow bags and a little brown one. He busted into the bank, carrying the little one, and right out again, looking like somebody had kicked him on his corns. Had me take him to the Phelps Building" — the offices of Rathbone & Zumwalt were in that building — "and didn't give me a jit over my fare!"
At the Golden Gate Trust Company I had to plead and talk a lot, but they finally gave me what I wanted — Rathbone had drawn out his account, a little less than $5,000, on the twenty-fifth of the month, the Saturday before he left town.
From the trust company I went down to the Ferry Building baggage-rooms and cigared myself into a look at the records for the twenty-eighth. Only one lot of three bags had been checked to New York that day.
I telegraphed the numbers and Rathbone's description to the Agency's New York office, instructing them to find the bags and, through them, find him.
Up in the Pullman Company's offices I was told that car "8" was a through car, and that they could let me know within a couple hours whether Rathbone had occupied his berth all the way to New York.
On my way up to the 1100 block of Bush Street I left one of Rathbone's photographs with a photographer, with a rush order for a dozen copies.
I found Eva Duthie's apartment after about five minutes of searching vestibule directories, and got her out of bed. She was an undersized blonde girl of somewhere between nineteen and twenty-nine, depending upon whether you judged by her eyes or by the rest of her face.
"I haven't seen or heard from Mr. Rathbone for nearly a month," she said. "I called him up at his hotel the other night — had a party I wanted to ring him in on — but they told me that he was out of town and wouldn't be back for a week or two."
Then, in answer to another question:
"Yes, we were pretty good friends, but not especially thick. You know what I mean: we had a lot of fun together but neither of us meant anything to the other outside of that. Dan is a good sport — and so am I."
Mrs. Earnshaw wasn't so frank. But she had a husband, and that makes a difference. She was a tall, slender woman, as dark as a gypsy, with a haughty air and a nervous trick of chewing her lower lip.
We sat in a stiffly furnished room and she stalled me for about fifteen minutes, until I came out flat-footed with her.
"It's like this, Mrs. Earnshaw," I told her. "Mr. Rathbone has disappeared, and we are going to find him. You're not helping me and you're not helping yourself. I came here to get what you know about him.
"I could have gone around asking a lot of questions among your friends; and if you don't tell me what I want to know that's what I'll have to do. And, while I'll be as careful as possible, still there's bound to be some curiosity aroused, some wild guesses, and some talk. I'm giving you a chance to avoid all that. It's up to you."
"You are assuming," she said coldly, "that I have something to hide."
"I'm not assuming anything. I'm hunting for information about Daniel Rathbone."
She bit her lip on that for a while, and then the story came out bit by bit, with a lot in it that wasn't any too true, but straight enough in the long run. Stripped of the stuff that wouldn't hold water, it went like this:
She and Rathbone had planned to run away together. She had left San Francisco on the twenty-sixth, going directly to New Orleans. He was to leave the next day, apparently for New York, but he was to change trains somewhere in the Middle West and meet her in New Orleans. From there they were to go by boat to Central America.
She pretended ignorance of his designs upon the bonds. Maybe she hadn't known. Anyhow, she had carried out her part of the plan, but Rathbone had failed to show up in New Orleans. She hadn't shown much care in covering her trail and private detectives employed by her husband had soon found her. Her husband had arrived in New Orleans and, apparently not knowing that there was another man in the deal, had persuaded her to return home.
She wasn't a woman to take kindly to the jilting Rathbone had handed her, so she hadn't tried to get in touch with him, or to learn what had kept him from joining her.
Her story rang true enough, but just to play safe, I put out a few feelers in the neighborhood, and what I learned seemed to verify what she had told me. I gathered that a few of the neighbors had made guesses that weren't a million miles away from the facts.
I got the Pullman Company on the telephone and was told that lower 4, car 8, leaving for New York on the twenty-eighth, hadn't been occupied at all.
Zumwalt was dressing for dinner when I went up to his room at the hotel where he was staying.
I told him all that I had learned that day, and what I thought of it.
"Everything makes sense up until Rathbone left the Golden Gate Trust Company vault on the twenty-seventh, and after that nothing does! He had planned to grab the bonds and elope with this Mrs. Earnshaw, and he had already drawn out of the bank all his own money. That's all orderly. But why should he have gone back to the office? Why should he have stayed in town that night? What was the important business that held him? Why should he have ditched Mrs. Earnshaw? Why didn't he use his reservations at least part of the way across the country, as he had planned? False trail, maybe, but a rotten one! There's nothing to do, Mr. Zumwalt, but to call in the police and the newspapers, and see what publicity and a nation-wide search will do for us."
"But that means jail for Dan, with no chance to quietly straighten the matter up!" he protested.
"It does! But it can't be helped. And remember, you've got to protect yourself. You're his partner, and, while not criminally responsible, you are financially responsible for his actions. You've got to put yourself in the clear!"
He nodded reluctant agreement and I grabbed the telephone.
For two hours I was busy giving all the dope we had to the police, and as much as we wanted published to the newspapers, who luckily had photographs of Rathbone, taken a year before when he had been named as corespondent in a divorce suit.
I sent off three telegrams. One to New York, asking that Rathbone's baggage be opened as soon as the necessary authority could be secured. (If he hadn't gone to New York the baggage should be waiting at the station.) One to Chicago, asking that Rathbone's brother be interviewed and then shadowed for a few days. And one to New Orleans, to have the city searched for him. Then I headed for home and bed.
News was scarce, and the papers the next day had Rathbone spread out all over the front pages, with photographs and descriptions and wild guesses and wilder clews that had materialized somehow within the short space between the time the newspapers got the story and the time they went to press.
I spent the morning preparing circulars and plans for having the country covered; and arranging to have steamship records searched.
Just before noon a telegram came from New York, itemizing the things found in Rathbone's baggage. The contents of the two large bags didn't mean anything. They might have been packed for use or for a stall. But the things in the Gladstone bag, which had been found unlocked, were puzzling.
Here's the list:
Two suits silk pajamas, 4 silk shirts, 8 linen collars, 4 suits underwear, 6 neckties, 6 pairs sox, 18 handkerchiefs, 1 pair military brushes, 1 comb, 1 safety razor, 1 tube shaving cream, 1 shaving brush, 1 tooth brush, 1 tube tooth paste, 1 can talcum powder, 1 bottle hair tonic, 1 cigar case holding 12 cigars, 1 .32 Colt's revolver, 1 map of Honduras, 1 Spanish English dictionary, 2 books postage stamps, 1 pint Scotch whiskey, and 1 manicure set.
Zumwalt, his bookkeeper, and his stenographer were watching two men from headquarters search Rathbone's office when I arrived there. After I showed them the telegram the detectives went back to their examination.
"What's the significance of that list?" Zumwalt asked.
"It shows that there's no sense to this thing the way it now stands," I said. "That Gladstone bag was packed to be carried. Checking it was all wrong — it wasn't even locked. And nobody ever checks Gladstone bags filled with toilet articles — so checking it for a stall would have been the bunk! Maybe he checked it as an afterthought — to get rid of it when he found he wasn't going to need it. But what could have made it unnecessary to him? Don't forget that it's apparently the same bag that he carried into the Golden Gate Trust Company vault when he went for the bonds. Damned if I can dope it!"
"Here's something else for you to dope," one of the city detectives said, getting up from his examination of the desk and holding out a sheet of paper. "I found it behind one of the drawers, where it had slipped down."
It was a letter, written with blue ink in a firm, angular and unmistakably feminine hand on heavy white note paper.
Excerpted from It and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett, Richard Layman, Julie M. Rivett. Copyright © 1984 Pro-Distributors. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword: "Through Mud and Blood and Death and Deceit",
Introduction: The Early Years, 1923–1924,
"Bodies Piled Up",
"The Tenth Clew",
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good stories from Black Mask but the book's content is just lacking. I'm thinking a few more stories to make this volume worthwhile and worth the money.