Read The Westing Game Online

Authors: Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game (17 page)

BOOK: The Westing Game
8.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
“Westing connection?”
The judge paused, then spoke so rapidly Sandy had to stop taking notes. “My mother was a servant in the Westing household, my father worked for the railroad and was the gardener on his days off.”
“You mean you lived in the Westing house?” Sandy asked with obvious surprise. “You knew the Westings?”
“I barely saw Mrs. Westing. Violet was a few years younger than I, doll-like and delicate. She was not allowed to play with other children. Especially the skinny, long-legged, black daughter of the servants.”
“Gee, you must have been lonely, Judge, having nobody to play with.”
“I played with Sam Westing—chess. Hour after hour I sat staring down at that chessboard. He lectured me, he insulted me, and he won every game.” The judge thought of their last game: She had been so excited about taking his queen, only to have the master checkmate her in the next move. Sam Westing had deliberately sacrificed his queen and she had fallen for it. “Stupid child, you can’t have a brain in that frizzy head to make a move like that.” Those were the last words he ever said to her.
The judge continued: “I was sent to boarding school when I was twelve. My parents visited me at school when they could, but I never set foot in the Westing house again, not until two weeks ago.”
“Your folks must have really worked hard,” Sandy said. “An education like that costs a fortune.”
“Sam Westing paid for my education. He saw that I was accepted into the best schools, probably arranged for my first job, perhaps more, I don’t know.”
“That’s the first decent thing I’ve heard about the old man.”
“Hardly decent, Mr. McSouthers. It was to Sam Westing’s advantage to have a judge in his debt. Needless to say, I have excused myself from every case remotely connected with Westing affairs.”
“You’re awfully hard on yourself, Judge. And on him. Maybe Westing paid for your education ’cause you were smart and needy, and you did all the rest by yourself.”
“This is getting us nowhere, Mr. McSouthers. Just write: Westing connection: Education financed by Sam Westing. Debt never repaid.”
Theo, upset over his Skid Row snooping, took out his anger on the up button, poking it, jabbing it, until the elevator finally made its way down to the lobby. Slowly the door slid open. He stared down at the sparking, sputtering arsenal, yelled and belly-flopped to the carpet as rockets whizzed out of the elevator, inches above his head. Boom! Boom! A blinding flash of white fire streaked through the lobby, through the open entrance door, and burst into a chrysanthemum of color in the night sky. Then the elevator door closed.
The bomber had made one mistake. The last rocket blasted off when the elevator returned to the third floor. Boom!
By the time the bomb squad reached the scene (by way of the stairs), the smoke had cleared, but the young girl was still huddled on the hallway floor, tears streaming down her turtle-like face.
“For heaven’s sake, say something,” her mother said. “Tell me where it hurts.”
The pain was too great to be put into words. Five inches of Turtle’s braid were badly singed.
Grace Wexler attacked the policeman. “Nothing but a childish prank, you said. Some childish prank; both my children cruelly injured, almost killed. Maybe now you’ll do something, now that it’s too late.”
Unshaken by the mother’s anger, the policeman held up the sign that had been taped to the elevator wall:
On the reverse side was a handwritten composition: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Turtle Wexler.
Grace grabbed the theme and shook it at her daughter, who was being rocked in Flora Baumbach’s arms. “Somebody stole this from you, didn’t they, Turtle? You couldn’t have done such an awful thing, not to Angela, not to your own sister, could you Turtle? Could you?”
“I want to see a lawyer,” Turtle replied.
The bomb squad, faced with six hours’ overtime filling out forms and delivering the delinquent to a juvenile detention facility, decided it was best for all concerned to escort the prisoner to apartment 4D and place her in the custody of Judge Ford.
Judge Ford put on her black robe and seated herself behind the desk. Before her stood a downcast child looking very sad and very sorry. Not at all like the Turtle she knew. “You surprise me, Turtle Wexler. I thought you were too smart to commit such a dangerous, destructive, and stupid act.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Why did you do it, Turtle? To hurt someone, to get even with someone?”
“No, ma’am.”
Of course not. Turtle kicked shins, she was not the type to bottle up her anger. “You do understand that a child would not receive as harsh a penalty as an adult would? That there would be no permanent criminal record?”
“Yes, ma’am. I mean, no, ma’am.”
She was protecting someone. She had set off the fireworks in the elevator to divert suspicion from the real bomber. But who was the real bomber? Nothing to do but drag it out of her, name by name, starting with the least likely. “Are you protecting Angela?”
The judge was astounded by the excited response. Angela could not be the bomber, not that sweet, pretty thing. Thing? Is that how she regarded that young woman, as a thing? And what had she ever said to her except ‘I hear you’re getting married, Angela’ or ‘How pretty you look, Angela.’ Had anyone asked about her ideas, her hopes, her plans? If I had been treated like that I’d have used dynamite, not fireworks; no, I would have just walked out and kept right on going. But Angela was different. “What a senseless thing to do,” the judge said aloud.
“Yes, ma’am.” Turtle stared down at the carpet, wondering if she had given Angela away.
Judge Ford rose and placed an arm around Turtle’s bony shoulders. She had never wished for a sister until this moment. “Turtle, will you give me your word that you will never play with fireworks again?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“While we’re at it, do you have anything else to confess?”
“Yes, ma’am. I was in the Westing house the night Mr. Westing died.”
“Good lord, child, sit down and tell me.”
Turtle began with the purple-waves story, went on to the whisperings, the bedded-down corpse, the dropped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and her mother’s cross, and ended with the twenty-four dollars she had won.
“Did either you or Doug Hoo call the police?”
“No, ma’am, we were too scared, we just ran. Is that a crime?”
The judge said it was a criminal offense to conceal a murder.
“But Mr. Westing didn’t look murdered,” Turtle argued. “He looked asleep, like he did in the coffin. He looked like a wax dummy.”
“A wax dummy?”
Now Turtle was the one surprised by the excited response. The judge thinks it might have been a real wax dummy, not a corpse at all. Then what happened to Sam Westing?
The judge regained her composure. “Not reporting a dead body is a violation of the health code, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Is there anything else, Turtle?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Turtle replied, glancing at the portable bar. “Could I have a little bourbon?”
“Just a little. On a piece of cotton to put in my cavity. My tooth hurts something awful.”
Relieved at not having a juvenile alcoholic on her hands, Judge Ford prepared the home remedy. “Is that better? Good. You may go home now.”
Home meant going to Baba. Baba loved her no matter what, and Turtle didn’t care if the others thought she was the bomber—except Sandy. He was walking toward her right now, walking his bouncy walk, but not smiling. Sandy is disappointed in her, he thinks she hurt her own sister, he doesn’t want to be friends anymore.
“How’s my girl?” Sandy said, cupping his hand under her chin and lifting her head. “Whew! Hitting the bottle again?”
“It’s just bourbon on cotton for my toothache.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.”
“Honest, Saaan-eee.” Turtle was pointing inside her wide-open mouth.
The doorman peered in. “Wow, that’s some cavity, it looks like the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow morning you’re going to see my dentist—no back talk. He’s very gentle, you won’t feel a thing. Promise you’ll go?”
Turtle nodded.
Sandy smiled. “Good, then down to business. My wife’s having a birthday tomorrow. I thought one of your gorgeous striped candles would make a swell present.”
“There’s only one candle left,” Turtle replied. “It’s the best of the lot. Six super colors. I spent a lot of time making it; that’s why I wouldn’t part with it. But since it’s for your wife’s birthday, Sandy, I’ll let you have it for only five dollars. And I won’t charge you sales tax.”
“Try not to stick your fanny out so far,” Angela said from her chair. Now that Sydelle Pulaski depended on crutches, she lurched clumsily, hobbled by old habits.
“Just keep reading those clues.” The secretary straightened, shoulders back, stomach in, until her next step.
With their telephone switched off and Contagious Disease added to the No Visitors sign, the bomb victims had privacy at last. Sydelle had twice read the entire will aloud. Now Angela, her hands unbandaged, was reshuffling the collected clues.
“Again,” Sydelle ordered. “Change them around and read either the word
or the word
both together are confusing.”
“Shh!” Someone was at the door. Angela picked up the note that was slipped underneath.
My darling Angela: I guess the sign on the door means I should stay away, too. I understand. We both need time to think things over. I’ll wait. I love you—Denton
“What does it say, what does it say?” Sydelle pressed, but Angela read only the postscript aloud:
You have another admirer. Chris wants to give you and Ms. Pulaski one of our clues. (Flora Baumbach has seen it, too.) The word is
“Like an airplane?” Sydelle asked.
“No, plain, like ordinary. Like the wide open plains.”
“Plains, grains. Quick, Angela, read the clues again.”
“That’s it, Angela. We got it, we got it!” Sydelle could barely control her excitement. “The will said,
Sing in praise of this generous land.
The will said,
May God thy gold refine.
America, Angela, America!
Purple mountain majesties,
Angela. Whoopee!”
Fortunately Sydelle Pulaski was close to the bed when she threw her crutches in the air.
SATURDAY MORNING, a new message was posted in the elevator:
BOOK: The Westing Game
8.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
The Buried Book by D. M. Pulley
Hamilton, Donald - Matt Helm 14 by The Intriguers (v1.1)
Sword of Apollo by Noble Smith
Undertow by Kingston, Callie
Sinister Sentiments by K.C. Finn
Roanoke (The Keepers of the Ring) by Hunt, Angela, Angela Elwell Hunt