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Dashiell Hammett

The Adventures Of Sam Spade

TOO MANY HAVE LIVED

THE MAN'S TIE was as orange as a sunset. He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness. The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flat against the sides of his head—each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface. His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five.

He sat beside Samuel Spade's desk, leaning forward a little over his Malacca stick, and said, “No. I want you to find out what happened to him. I hope you never find him.” His protuberant green eyes stared solemnly at Spade.

Spade rocked back in his chair. His face—given a not unpleasantly Satanic cast by the v's of his bony chin, mouth, nostrils, and thickish brows—was as politely interested as his voice. “Why?”

The green-eyed man spoke quietly, with assurance: “I can talk to you, Spade. You've the sort of reputation I want in a private detective. That's why I'm here.”

Spade's nod committed him to nothing.

The green-eyed man said, “And any fair price is all right with me.”

Spade nodded as before. “And with me,” he said, “but I've got to know what you want to buy. You want to find out what's happened to this—uh—Eli Haven, but you don't care what it is?”

The green-eyed man lowered his voice, but there was no other change in his mien: “In a way I do.' For instance, if you found him and fixed it so he stayed away for good, It might be worth more money to me.”

“You mean even if he didn't want to stay away?”

The green-eyed man said, “Especially.”

Spade smiled and shook his head. “Probably not enough more money—the way you mean it.” He took his long, thick-fingered hands from the arms of his chair and turned their palms up. “Well, what's it all about, Colyer?”

Colyer's face reddened a little, but his eyes maintained their unblinking cold stare. “This man's got a wife. I like her. They had a row last week and he blew. If I can convince her he's gone for good, there's a chance she'll divorce him.”

“I'd want to talk to her,” Spade said. “Who is this Eli Haven? What does he do?”

“He's a bad egg. He doesn't do anything. Writes poetry or something.”

“What can you tell me about him that'll help?”

“Nothing Julia, his wife, can't tell you. You're going to talk to her.” Colyer stood up. “I've got connections. Maybe I can get something for you through them later.” . . .

A small-boned woman of twenty-five or —six opened the apartment door. Her powder-blue dress was trimmed with silver buttons. She was full-bosomed but slim, with straight shoulders and narrow hips, and she carried herself with a pride that would have been cockiness in one less graceful.

Spade said, “Mrs. Haven?”

She hesitated before saying “Yes.”

“Gene Colyer sent me to see you. My name's Spade. I'm a private detective. He wants me to find your husband.”

“And have you found him?”

“I told him I'd have to talk to you first.”

Her smile went away. She studied his face gravely, feature by feature, then she said, “Certainly,” and stepped back, drawing the door back with her.

When they were seated in facing chairs in a cheaply furnished room overlooking a playground where children were noisy, she asked, “Did Gene tell you why he wanted Eli found?”

“He said if you knew he was gone for good maybe you'd listen to reason.”

She said nothing.

“Has he ever gone off like this before?”

“Often.”

“What's he like?”

“He's a swell man,” she said dispassionately, “when he's sober; and when he's drinking he's all right except with women and money.”

“That leaves him a lot of room to be all right in. What does he do for a living?”

“He's a poet,” she replied, “but nobody makes a living at that.”

“Well?”

“Oh, he pops in with a little money now and then. Poker, races, he says. I don't know.”

“How long've you been married?”

“Four years, almost”—he smiled mockingly.

“San Francisco all the time?”

“No, we lived in Seattle the first year and then came here.”

“He from Seattle?”

She shook her head. “Some place in Delaware.”

“What place?”

“I don't know.”

Spade drew his thickish brows together a little. “Where are you from?”

She said sweetly, “You're not hunting for me.”

“You act like it,” he grumbled. “Well, who are his friends?”

“Don't ask me!”

He made an impatient grimace. “You know some of them,” he insisted.

“Sure. There's a fellow named Minera and a Louis James and somebody he calls Conny.”

“Who are they?”

“Men,” she replied blandly. “I don't know anything about them. They phone or drop by to pick him up, or I see him around town with them. That's all I know.”

“What do they do for a living? They can't all write poetry.”

She laughed. “They could try. One of them, Louis James, is a—member of Gene's staff, I think. I honestly don't know any more about them than I've told you.”

“Think they'd know where your husband is?”

She shrugged. “They're kidding me if they do. They still call up once in a while to see if he's turned up.”

“And these women you mentioned?”

“They're not people I know.”

Spade scowled thoughtfully at the floor, asked, “What'd he do before he started not making a living writing poetry?”

“Anything—sold vacuum cleaners, hoboed, went to sea, dealt blackjack, railroaded, canning houses, lumber camps, carnivals, worked on a newspaper—anything.”

“Have any money when he left?”

“Three dollars he borrowed from me.”

“What'd he say?”

She laughed. “Said if I used whatever influence I had with God while he was gone he'd be back at dinnertime with a surprise for me.”

Spade raised his eyebrows. “You were on good terms?”

“Oh, yes. Our last fight had been patched up a couple of days before.”

“When did he leave?”

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