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Authors: Ellery Queen

Face to Face

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FACE TO FACE

Ellery Queen was both a famous fictional detective and the pen name of two cousins born in Brooklyn in 1905. Created by Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay as an entry in a mystery-writing contest, Ellery Queen is regarded by many as the definitive American whodunit celebrity. When their first novel,
The Roman Hat Mystery
(1929), became an immediate success, the cousins gave up their business careers and took to writing dozens of novels, hundreds of radio scripts and countless short stories about the gentleman detective and writer who shared an apartment on West 87
th
Street with his father, Inspector Queen of the NYPD. Dannay was said to have largely produced detailed outlines of the plots, clues and characters while Lee did most of the writing. As the success of Ellery Queen grew, the character's legacy continued through radio, television and film. In 1941, the cousins founded
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
. Edited by Queen for more than forty years, the periodical is still considered one of the most influential crime fiction magazines in American history. Additionally, Queen edited a number of collections and anthologies, and his critical writings are the major works on the detective short story. Under their collective pseudonym, the cousins were given several Edgar awards by the Mystery Writers of America, including the 1960 Grand Master Award. Their novels are examples of the classic ‘fair play' whodunit mystery of the Golden Age, where plot is always paramount. Manfred B. Lee, born Manford Lepofsky, died in 1971. Frederic Dannay, born Daniel Nathan, died in 1982.

FACE TO FACE

ELLERY QUEEN

THE LANGTAIL PRESS

L
ONDON

 

 

This edition published 2013 by

The Langtail Press

www.langtailpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Face to Face

Copyright © 1967 by Ellery Queen

Copyright renewed by Ellery Queen

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN 978-17-80-02165-2

Part 1

Profile

There is in every human countenance either a history or a prophecy.

S. T. C
OLERIDGE

1

On the penultimate lap of his round-the-planet tour, pumping police chiefs in odd cities for usable stories, Ellery had planned an overnight stop in London. But on flying in from Orly he ran into an Interpol man in Commissioner Vail's office at New Scotland Yard. The Interpol man was
muy simpático
, one good yarn led to another in a procession of pubs, and before he knew it several days and nights had blinked by, putting the New Year just around the corner.

The next morning, spurred by conscience and a head, Ellery stopped in at the airline office to pick up his ticket. And that was how and when he met Harry Burke. Burke was negotiating passage on the same jet to New York.

The Interpol man introduced Burke as a private inquiry agent—”one of the best, Queen, which of course means he doesn't pad his expense account by more than ten percent.” Burke laughed; he was a short sandy-haired man with the neck of a wrestler who looked like a good companion for a fight. He had very light, almost transparent, eyes and they had a trick of disappearing, as if they were not there at all. He looked like a Teuton, the “Burke” said he should have talked with a brogue, but his speech came out on the burry side, and before leaving them together Interpol cheerfully identified him as a renegade Scot.

Over a pint and a much sucked-on pipe in the nearest pub, Burke said: “So you're Queen the Younger. This is fantastic.”

“It is?” Ellery said.

“Meeting you this way, I mean. I was with your father not fifteen hours ago.”

“My
father?”

“Inspector Richard Queen of the New York police department,” Burke said solemnly.

“You've just flown in?”

The Scot nodded.

“But I saw you buy a plane ticket back to New York a few minutes ago.”

“I found a cable from Inspector Queen waiting for me when I got off the plane. Seems there's been a development in the case that originally took me to the States. He wants me to turn right around and fly back.”

“That's my daddy,” said Ellery. “Does he mention why?”

“No, but the cable contains that salty word, ‘pronto.' ”

“It must be important.” Ellery fondly accepted another ale from the barmaid, who looked as if she could have fetched the entire keg on one palm. “This case, Burke. Could it be the sort of thing I have no strength to resist?”

“I don't know your capacity for punishment.” Burke smiled at the vast barmaid, too, and buried his Caledonian nose in the mug. He was a handsome man.

They made the westward crossing shoulder to shoulder. For all the good Ellery's hinting did, the Scotsman might have been from the CIA. On subjects unrelated to his case, however, he was talkative enough. Harry Burke was an ex-Yard man who had recently resigned his detective inspectorship to form an agency of his own. Business was picking up, he said wryly.

“In the beginning it was touch and go. If not for my connections at the Yard, I'd be scratching like a Bantu. Commissioner Vail has been very kind.” Ellery gathered that Burke's current professional preoccupation was a result of Vail's latest kindness. The inquiry had come into the Yard and the Commissioner, finding it not proper Yard business, had privately recommended Burke for the job. It was not, Ellery suspected, Vail's first kindness of the sort. Burke was kept hopping now.

“But I'm a bachelor,” the sandy-haired man said, “and I don't have to make a ruddy accounting to some whining female for my hours. No, there's no one on the agenda, thank you. I don't stay in one place long enough to form an attachment.”

“You,” quoth Ellery, speaking strictly from hearsay, “are the sort who gets hooked in one fell jerk.”

“The angler hasn't been born who can hook me.”

“Watch out for the ones on my side of the puddle. Catching the hard ones comes naturally to American women.”

“They seem to have missed you, Queen.”

“Oh, but I'm the original Artful Dodger.”

“Then we have a great deal in common.”

And so they proved to have, including a penchant for small disagreements. By the time they set down in Gander they were on a first-name basis and arguing amiably over the comparative merits of serving Scotch kippers with and without sautéed onions. They almost forgot to mark the passage of the old year, which took place between heaven and earth after the flight resumed.

They landed at Kennedy International Airport early New Year's morning in a fog only slightly less gothic than the one that had grounded them in Gander.

“There's no point in your groping about for a hotel room at this hour,” Ellery said. “Come on home with me, Harry.”

“Oh, no. I couldn't put you and the Inspector out.”

“Rubbish, there's a daybed in my study. Besides, it will give you a jump on whatever my father's brought you back to New York for.” But this delicate feeler brought forth from Harry Burke no more than a good-natured nod. “Taxi?”

Their cab drove uptown through Times Square, which looked like a ghost town invaded by tumbleweed. “People are a mucky lot, aren't they?” Burke remarked, pointing his pipe stem at the litter. “Every time I see a thing like this I think of that last scene in
On the Beach.”

“Maybe that's what they were thinking of, too.”

They achieved the Queen apartment and found the Inspector not in his bed, or anywhere. “Out celebrating?” Burke ventured.

“Not a chance. Not my daddy. It's a case. What's this?”

This was a message for Ellery propped against the typewriter in his study, inscribed in the old man's squibby hand.

Dear Son:

A Miss Roberta West of East 73rd St. wants you to call her. No matter what time you get in, she says. Me, I'm up to my ears in something. I'll be phoning you. Oh, yes.Happy New Year!

It was signed “Dad” and there was a telephone number.

“Is this a sample of the Queens' home life?” asked the Scotsman.

“Only when interrupted by mayhem. Dad and I usually spend New Year's Eve dozing at the telly.” Ellery dialed the number. “Dump your bags in my bedroom, Harry—it's in there. Oh, and there's a bar in the living room if you'd like an eye-opener. Hello?”

“Ellery Queen?” asked a deeply anxious voice.

“Yes. I have a message to call a Miss West.”

“I'm Miss West. It's wonderful of you to call me so early. Whoever answered said you were flying in from England. Did you just get in, Mr. Queen?”

“Just. What's this about, Miss West?”

“Are you calling from your home?”

“Yes.”

“I'd like to come over.”

“Now?” asked Ellery, astonished. “I need a shave, I haven't had breakfast, and sleeping on transatlantic planes isn't one of my accomplishments. Can't this wait?”

“I haven't slept, either, waiting for your call. Please?”

She sounded like a pretty girl. So he sighed and said, “Do you know the address?”

2

Roberta West proved even prettier than she sounded. The moment Ellery set eyes on her he labeled her “theater” with “little?” in parentheses. She was dainty of body and fair of skin, with true sorrel hair, luminous eyes that were underscored with late hours or trouble, and an enchanting birthmark on her upper right cheek that looked remarkably like a little butterfly. Ellery's dramatic deduction derived from a number of small observations—the way she walked and cocked her head, a certain tension in her posture, an impression of newly acquired muscle-discipline, and above all the studied diction, as if even its slight occasional slurring had been carefully rehearsed. She was dressed in skirt and sweater-blouse of some angora like material, with a Parisian-looking coat flung over her shoulders, a scarf wound about her neck that might have been designed by Picasso, and gauntlet gloves. Her tiny feet were expensively shod in stylish flats, with butterfly bows—a touch, Ellery noted, that balanced the birthmark on her cheek; he was sure the bows had been chosen for just that reason.

The whole woman was an artful study in casualness—so much so, in fact, that Ellery was tempted to doubt his own conclusions. When they looked as if they had just stepped out of the pages of
Vogue
, he had found, they were almost always somebody's office help.

“You're in the theater,” he said.

Her brilliant, nearly fevered, eyes widened. “How did you know, Mr. Queen?”

“I have my methods,” he grinned, seeing her into the living room. “Oh, this is Mr. Burke. Miss West.”

The girl murmured something, and Harry Burke said, “D'ye do,” in a startled way, as if he had just stumbled over something. He moved over toward the doorway to Ellery's study and said with plain reluctance, “I'll wash up, Ellery. Or something.”

“Maybe Miss West won't mind your sitting in on this,” Ellery said. “Mr. Burke is a private detective, in from London on business.”

“Oh, in that case,” the girl said quickly; and for some reason she lowered her head. As for Burke, his glance at Ellery was positively canine. He slithered over to one of the windows and stood there, out of the way, staring.

“Now,” Ellery said when he had the girl seated, had offered her breakfast and been refused, and lit a cigaret for her, “shall we get down to cases, Miss West?”

She was quiet for a moment. Then she said, “I hardly know where to start,” looking confused; but suddenly she leaned over and rapped her cigaret ash into a tray. “I suppose you remember Glory Guild?”

Ellery remembered Glory Guild. He would have had to be deficient in all senses to profess amnesia. He not only remembered Glory Guild, he had listened to her with both enraptured ears in his youth, he had had wishful dreams about her—an international trauma—and even the memory of her voice sufficed to tickle his giblets. Memories were all that were left to those whom the press agent in her heyday had, with unfortunate failure to refer to the dictionary, termed her “myrmidons” of admirers.

Oh, yes, he had heard of GeeGee, as her intimates were said to call her (he had never been one of them, alas, alas); he still occasionally spun one of her old 78s on a moonlit night when he was feeling his years. He was surprised to have her name thrust at him so abruptly. It was as if the girl with the sorrel hair had recalled Helen Morgan, or Galli-Curci, or the little girl with the palpitant throat in
The Wizard of
Oz.

“What about Glory Guild?” Ellery asked. A movement by Harry Burke, swiftly stilled, had told him that Burke was surprised, too; surprised, and something more. Ellery slavered to know what it was. But then he compelled his attention to revert to Roberta West.

“I'm in love with Glory Guild's husband,” the girl said, and the way she said it brought Ellery to the point. “I mean, I ought to say I
was
in love with Carlos.” It seemed to Ellery that she shuddered, something he had found very few people did in actuality, regardless of authors. Then she said, “How can women be such fools? Such blind fools?” She really said “blind fools.”

She began to cry.

Crying women were no novelty in the Queen living room, and the obvious cause of these tears was one of the commonest; still, Ellery was touched, and he let her cry it quite out. She stopped at last, sniffling like a child, groped in her bag for a handkerchief, and pawed at her little nose. “I'm sorry,” the girl said. “I hadn't meant to do that. I'd made up my mind I
wouldn't.
Anyway, it was all over seven months ago. Or I thought it was. But now something's happened …”

BOOK: Face to Face
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