THE GLASS KEY by Dashiell Hammett

THE GLASS KEY by Dashiell Hammett

THE GLASS KEY by Dashiell Hammett


The Body in China Street


Green dice rolled across the green table, struck the rim together, and bounced back. One stopped short holding six white spots in two equal rows uppermost. The other tumbled out to the center of the table and came to rest with a single spot on top.

Ned Beaumont grunted softly–“Uhn!”–and the winners cleared the table of money.

Harry Sloss picked up the dice and rattled them in a pale broad hairy hand. “Shoot two bits.” He dropped a twenty-dollar bill and a five-dollar bill on the table.

Ned Beaumont stepped back saying: “Get on him, gamblers, I’ve got to refuel.” He crossed the billiard-room to the door. There he met Walter Ivans coming in. He said, “‘Lo, Walt,” and would have gone on, but Ivans caught his elbow as he passed and turned to face him.

“D-d-did you t-talk to P-p-paul?” When Ivans said “P-p-paul” a fine spray flew out between his lips.

“I’m going up to see him now.” Ivans’s china-blue eyes brightened in his round fair face until Ned Beaumont, narrow of eye, added: “Don’t expect much. If you could wait awhile.” –

Ivans’s chin twitched. “B-b-but she’s going to have the b-b-baby next month.”

A startled look came into Ned Beaumont’s dark eyes. He took his arm out of the shorter man’s hand and stepped back. Then a corner of his mouth twitched under his dark mustache and he said: “It’s a bad time, Walt, and–well–you’ll save yourself disappointment by not looking for much before November.” His eyes were narrow again and watchful.

“B-b-but if you t-tell him–”

“I’ll put it to him as hot as I can and you ought to know he’ll go the limit, but he’s in a tough spot right now.” He moved his shoulders and his face became gloomy except for the watchful brightness of his eves.

Ivans wet his lips and blinked his eyes many times. He drew in a long breath and patted Ned Beaumont’s chest with both hands. “G-g-go up now,” he said in an urgent pleading voice. “I-I’ll wait here f-for you.”


Ned Beaumont went upstairs lighting a thin green-dappled cigar. At the second-floor landing, where the Governor’s portrait hung, he turned towards the front of the building and knocked on the broad oaken door that shut off the corridor at that end.

When he heard Paul Madvig’s “All right” he opened the door arid went in.

Paul Madvig was alone in the room, standing at the window, with his hands in his trousers-pockets, his back to the door, looking through the screen down into dark China Street.

He turned around slowly and said: “Oh, here you are.” He was a man of forty-five, tall as Ned Beaumont, but forty pounds heavier without softness. His hair was light, parted in the middle, and brushed flat to his head. His face was handsome in a ruddy stout-featured way. His clothes were saved from flashiness by their quality and by his manner of wearing them.

Ned Beaumont shut the door and said: “Lend me some money.”

From his inner coat-pocket Madvig took a large brown wallet. “What do you want?”

“Couple of hundred.”

Madvig gave him a hundred-dollar bill and five twenties, asking: “Craps?”

“Thanks.” Ned Beaumont pocketed the money. “Yes.”

“It’s a long time since you’ve done any winning, isn’t it?” Madvig asked as he returned his hands to his trousers-pockets.

“Not so long–a month or six weeks.”

Madvig smiled. “That’s a long time to be losing.”

“Not for me.” There was a faint note of irritation in Ned Beaumont’s voice.

Madvig rattled coins in his pocket. “Much of a game tonight?” He sat on a corner of the table and looked down at his glistening brown shoes.

Ned Beaumont looked curiously at the blond man, then shook his head and said: “Peewee.” He walked to the window. Above the buildings on the opposite side of the street the sky was black and heavy. He went behind Madvig to the telephone and called a number. “Hello, Bernie. This is Ned. What’s the price on Peggy O’Toole? Is that all? . . . Well, give me five hundred of each. . . . Sure

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Categories: Hammett, Dashiel