A Family Affair by Rex Stout

I loaded a fork.

“I’ll just watch your face. Tell me why you came.”

I waited until the second forkful was with the first. “As I said, I need help. You once told me about a girl from Kansas named Doraymee. Remember?”

“Of course I do. I saw her yesterday.”

“You sow her? Yesterday? You saw Mrs. Harvey H. Bassett?”

“Yes. You must know about her husband, since you always read about murders. She phoned me yesterday afternoon and said she was-” She stopped with her mouth half open. “What is this? She asked about you, and now you’re asking about her. What’s going on?”

My mouth was half open too. “I don’t believe it. Are you saying that Mrs. Bassett phoned you to ask about me? I don’t -” “I didn’t say that. She phoned to ask me to come and hold her hand-that was what she wanted, but she didn’t say so. She said she just had to see me, I suppose because of what I had done before, when she couldn’t make it in New York and was going back home to get a meal. I hadn’t really done much, just paid for her room and board for a year. I hadn’t seen her for-oh, three or four years. I went, and we talked for an hour or more, and she asked if I had seen you since her husband died. I thought she was [60] just talking. Also she said she had read some of your books about Nero Wolfe’s cases, and that surprised me because I knew she never read books. I thought she was just talking to get her mind off of her troubles, but now you ask about her. So I want to know-” She bit it off and stared at me. “My god, Escamillo, is it possible that I am capable of jealousy? Of course, if I could be about anybody, it would be about you, but I have always thought … I refuse to believe it.”


I reached to draw fingertips across the back of her hand. “Probably you have been jealous about me since the day you first caught sight of me and heard my voice, that’s only natural, but Doraymee has never seen me and I have never seen her. Our asking about each other is just a coincidence. Usually I’m suspicious of coincidences, but I love this one. I now tell you something that is absolutely not for publication. Not yet. There’s a connection between the two murders-Bassett and Pierre Ducos-and it’s possible that Doraymee knows something that will help. A week before he was killed-Friday evening, October eighteenth-Bassett treated six men to a meal at Rusterman’s, and Nero Wolfe wants to know the names of the six men, and so do I. Possibly she knows. The name of even one would help. Lon Cohen of the Gazette, whom you have met, says that she has holed up and won’t see anybody. I’m not particular; either you might call her and ask her to see me, or you might go and ask her for the names, or you might just ask for them on the phone. As I said, even one of them. That’s what I came for, and I want to thank you for this delicious hash. I also want the recipe for Fritz.”

I loaded my fork.

She took a bite of celery and chewed. That’s another good point. Her face is just as attractive when she is chewing celery or even a good big bite of steak. She swallowed. “This is the third time you’ve [61] asked me to help,” she said. “I didn’t mind the other two. In fact I enjoyed it.”

I nodded. “And there’s no reason not to enjoy this one. I wouldn’t ask you to snoop on a friend, you know that. I assume-we assume-that she would like to have the man who killed her husband tagged and nailed. So would we. I admit the one we have got to tag is the one who killed Pierre Ducos there in that house when I was going to bed just thirty feet away, but as I said, they’re connected. I can’t guarantee she will never be sorry she told you these names; when you’re investigating a murder you can’t guarantee anything, but you can name the odds. A thousand to one.”

I loaded my fork. I think that stuff was edible; my mind wasn’t on it.

“I’d rather just phone and ask her. What if she says she doesn’t know their names and I think she’s lying? I like her, you can’t help but like her, but she’s a pretty good liar. I don’t want to needle her now. She’s low, very low.”

“Of course not. Make it simple. Leave me out. Just say somebody told you she saw Bassett at Rusterman’s with five or six men just a week before he was killed and they didn’t look very jolly and she wondered if one of them killed him. Nuts. Listen to me. Telling you how to use your tongue.”

“No butter today, thank you. All right. There’s lemon-sherry pudding and I want to enjoy it, so 111 go to the bedroom and get it done.”

She pushed her chair back and rose. “Friday, October eighteenth.”


She went. My watch said 2: 21. If she got names, I wouldn’t enjoy my lemon-sherry pudding, so it was advisable to get that done, and I pushed the button and Mimi came. Her eyes went down to my plate and up to me. “You ate more than half of it, Mr. Good win. What do you think?”

“To be honest, Mimi, I don’t know. When I’ve got [62] a job on my mind I forget to taste. 111 have to come again.”

She nodded. “I knew you were working on something, I can tell. Shall I do an omelet?”

I said no thanks, just the pudding and coffee, and she took my plate. In four minutes she was back, and I burned my tongue on the coffee because my stomach sent up word that it wanted help. Of course the pudding was no stranger. Mimi is good at puddings and parfaits and pastries. Also at coffee.

I was licking my spoon when Lily came, talking as she entered. “Don’t get up. I got one name.”

She sat. “That woman is really low, I don’t know why. He was twice her age, at least that, and I supposed she married him just to get in out of the rain. Didn’t she?”

“I don’t know, I never met her. You got a name?”

“Yes, just one. She said she didn’t know who the others were, but one of them was a man she knew.”

She handed me a paper, light green, a sheet from her 5-by-8 memo pad. “She called him Benny. He’s an engineer, with NATELEC, Bassett’s company. More coffee?”

“No, thanks. You show promise. Well raise your pay and-” “I’ll do better as I go along. You skip. You’re not yourself when you’d rather be somewhere else.”

She picked up her spoon.

“I would not rather-I don’t need to tell you what I’d rather.”

I stood. “I’ll tell you everything someday, and I hope you like it.”

I skipped.

In the elevator I looked at the slip. Benjamin Igoe. That was all, and I should have asked her how to pronounce it. On the sidewalk I stood for half a minute, then headed west and turned downtown on Madison. I had to decide how to handle it-using my intelligence guided by experience, as Wolfe put it. By Fifty-fifth Street it was decided, but my legs would [63] get me there as soon as a taxi or a bus, so I kept going. It was five past three when the doorman at Rusterman’s saluted and opened for me, so the lunch rush would be over and Felix could and would listen.

That was all he had to do, listen, except for pronouncing it. I spelled it, and he thought probably Eego, but I preferred Eyego, and since I had been born in Ohio and he had been born in Vienna, I won. When that was settled and he was thoroughly briefed, I went to the bar and ordered an Irish with water on the side. Even after the coffee my stomach still seemed to think something was needed, and I made it Irish to show Lily there was no hard feeling. Then I went and consulted the phone book for the address of National Electronics Industries. Third Avenue, middle Forties, which was a relief. It might have been Queens. I left by the side door.

They had three floors of one of the newer steel-and-glass hives. The directory on the lobby wall said Research and Development on the eighth. Production on the ninth, and Executive on the tenth. He might be anything from stock clerk to Chairman of the Board, but you might as well start at the top, so I went to the tenth but was told that Mr. Eyego was in Production. So I pronounced it right. On the ninth a woman with a double chin used a kind of intercom that was new to me and then told me to go down the hall to the last door on the right.

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Categories: Stout, Rex