By Rex Stout
When the doorbell rang at the old brownstone on West 35th Street, I was already in a lousy mood. We had just finished the Beltham embezzlement case, and it was Friday, and I had wanted to celebrate by spending the weekend with Lily Rowan. Instead, Wolfe had insisted I finish the paperwork. I knew he would have no interest in a case, in any case, what with what we’d just been paid, so I made up my mind that, whoever this was, he was getting in to see Wolfe.
The man on the other side of the glass was young–I’d say in his early twenties. He was slight, but seemed athletic. When I opened the door, he said simply, “Mr. Nero Wolfe?”
“No,” I said, “I’m Archie Goodwin. But if it’s a case, I can take you in to see Mr. Wolfe. He’s just down from visiting his orchids.”
“His–? No, never mind. Yes, I’d like to see him about a case.”
“Then come in, Mr.–”
He handed me his card as I took his coat. I looked it over–expensive printing, gold lettering. I guided him to the leather chair. Wolfe looked up, glared, started to speak, but evidently put it together, because instead his lips pressed together into a thin line–or as thin a line as he can manage. I handed Wolfe the card. He glanced at it, glared at me, then turned his attention back to our guest.
“Very well,” he said. “How can I help you, Mr. Hamlet?”
“I want you to prove that my uncle killed my father.”
He wagged his finger. “I will do no such thing under any circumstances. Should I agree to take the case, I will endeavor to discover the truth.”
“That will be fine. As a retainer, I can–”
“Excuse me, I haven’t said I’d take it, yet. Now, what makes you think your uncle killed your father?”
“His ghost told me,” said Hamlet, as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world.
Wolfe glared at me. “Pfui,” he said. He started to say more, but then stopped, and a sort of malicious glint came into his eye. He turned to Hamlet. “That is very interesting,” he said. “It is getting rather late. Perhaps you could stay to dinner and afterwards Archie can get all the details? Archie, tell Fritz we will be having a guest.”
No way around it, I was beat. I got up and headed to the kitchen to tell Fritz that something smelled rotten in the office.
[Sorry, folks. I just sorta had to. Next, Pamela will demonstrate how Shakespeare would have written Plot It Yourself.]