Tuesday morning, Chiu decides to find out more about the mysterious dagger Elias has asked them to acquire for her. He heads down to Sotheby’s and meets Dr. Simon Martin, one of the curators.
“Good morning, I’m with the Golden Sentinel. I’d like to cover today’s auction.”
“Yes, I know your paper,” says Martin a bit dubiously. However, he remembers that the paper’s primary readership is rich society matrons with a taste for ancient artifacts.
“Free publicity,” says Chiu, holding up his camera.
Shrugging, Martin takes him back to the lot storage. The auction will cover a wide variety of antiquities, from Greco-Roman artifacts through Chinese artwork. Distributing his questions cleverly, Chiu still manages to discover that the dagger in question is incredibly old—reliably dated as being from pre-dynastic Egypt, some 4,000 years ago. The ibis, he explains, was a symbol of the god Thoth, one of the Egyptian deities of the dead.
Freddie does a bit of digging about the Carlyle expedition, dropping by his club to talk things over with one of his drinking companions. “Stinky” certainly remembers Carlyle, and his man Jack Brady. He mentions that Carlyle buggered off for Egypt with his psychologist in tow, along with his supposed girlfriend Hypatia Masters, flapper daughter of an armaments manufacturing family. “Stinky” intimates that Roger might not have been so interested in Miss Masters.
He also reminds Freddie about a certain African woman that Roger seemed to be fascinated by: some poetess calling herself M’Weru or something like that; always wore these Egyptian-style masks.
“Say, Freddie, do you know who else went with them?”
“Can’t say I do, old sport. Who?”
“Who’s that, old bean?”
“Viscount Pevensey. Sir, ah what was it, Aubrey Penhew. Landed gentry from the Midlands, excellent old family. Knew the Carlyles somehow, they were friends.”
While Freddie whiles away the time upstairs, Gilbert drops by the servants’ lounge and strikes up a conversation with the club’s longtime butler. No friend of the toffs upstairs, he rails about how Carlyle brought his thug friend Brady to the club. He shows Gilbert the club’s scrapbooks, which contain several pictures of Carlyle and Brady. Gilbert notices a tatoo on Brady’s hand that marks him as not just a former U. S. Marine, but one that had been on duty in Shanghai.
Will Blont decides that now is the time to get some weapons. He drops in on Luigi’s tailor shop. Several months before, he had stitched up the tailor’s son, who was wounded in a mob turf war.
“Ah, Mister Doctor! What can I do for you?”
“Is your son around?”
“Oh no, sir,” says Luigi, motioning with his head towards the back room. “We don’t do anything illegal here! Now, why don’t you go in the back and I’ll get your suit for you?”
In the back room, several mobsters are working various wire fraud and numbers games. Luigi’s son is happy to oblige Will. Opening a drawer, he gives Blont a .25 Colt automatic—“a sweet little gun, good for a lady—” and .38 Automatic.
Gilbert also decides to get heeled, picking up a sawed off shotgun that fits neatly in his valise and a M1911 .45 automatic from one of his underground contacts.
Pearkes drops in on the ambassador and asks for him to expedite a pistol permit for himself. Also, he wants to bring Elias in; the Ambassador refuses this request, but agrees to put pressure on the City for the permit. Pearkes and Steele motor down to Centre Street and cow a county clerk into giving them the paperwork.
In the afternoon Chiu, Blont and Elias motor out to the fabulous Carlyle manor, which overlooks Huntington, Long Island. As they approach the manor, Elias asks the two men to do her a favor—make sure that they ask Erica Carlyle about “Vanessa,” and ask her about Roger’s books. When quizzed about this, she says that Erica does not like her, and she wants one of them to ask since they’ll have more of a chance of success.
“Nice ride,” says the valet as they pull up in Freddie’s Bugatti.
“Thanks,” says Chiu. “I took it from my boss with his explicit knowledge. It’s only stolen if I don’t come back with it.”
They are led into the mansion, but before they can enter the parlor, they are stopped by a large man clearly carrying a gun. “Hold on,” says Joe Cory, the Carlyle bodyguard. “I gotta search you. We’ve had people trying to break in here.”
“All right,” says Charleston, and begins to strip off his clothes.
“Hey, wait! Stop that! Get your clothes back on, you [racial slur]!”
“Don’t you need to search me?”
“You’re fine! Sheesh!”
Blont nervously smiles. He was carrying his two new guns. He and Charleston discuss the bodyguard and decide that instead of a break-in, Erica might have been the target of a kidnapping attempt.
Erica enters the parlor after they are seated. Her demeanor instantly changes when she sees Elias. “If I had known it was you, I wouldn’t have said yes to Freddie.” Charleston defuses the situation with some banter, and the interview commences.
Elias asks several questions about Erica’s trip to Africa to recover Roger’s remains, and many other questions about the expedition personnel. She seems to be circling around the idea that maybe Roger is still alive, which is distasteful to Erica.
“You know, I was the older sister, but Roger inherited everything when our parents died, even though he had no head for it. Washed out of every school he ever attended! It’s taken me almost five years to put the companies back together.”
Chiu inquires about the books. “Oh, those. I destroyed them,” says Erica, but both Blont and Chiu pick up a subtle movement of her eyes towards the bookcase.
“Would you perhaps have some records of what they were?”
“I might have the indexes of purchase, that sort of thing.”
“Anything you could give me would be helpful. You wouldn’t want any negative publicity to get out about them, would you?”
“I suppose you could pick them up tomorrow.”
“Splendid. Oh, one more small thing. We’re trying to learn whatever we can about a woman named Vanessa—”
Erica stands up. “You know about Vanessa? What do you know?”
“Well, we’re trying to learn more—”
“I’m sorry, I have a board meeting to attend. Cory will see you out.”
At Sotheby’s, Freddie, Gilbert and Pearkes, with MacDonald in tow, arrive just in time for the auction. The crowd is mostly rich playboys and society matrons; however, there is a contingent of what Freddie assumes are rather diminutive Chinese men, all identically dressed in black suits with bowler hats. Surprisingly, they do not bid on any of the Chinese artifacts—they only start bidding when the Dagger of Thoth comes up for bidding.
“Pre-dynastic Egyptian dagger, in wonderful condition. Do I hear $10,000?”
“$10,000,” says Pearkes, although that is a year’s salary for him. He looks at the others. “Don’t worry, it’s never the last bid.”
“$10,000, going once. Going twice. Going—”
“$15,000,” says one of the bowler-hatted men.
“$20,000,” says Freddie, languidly.
“$25,000!” exclaims Bowler Hat.
“$65,000, old man.”
The auction ends with Freddie victorious, and the bowler hat contingent departs in a huff. Following the reception, Freddie, Gilbert and Pearkes go around back to the loading dock, where they receive an enameled box containing the dagger.
They get in a cab to head back to Freddie’s apartment. They have not gotten far when a black car swerves in front of them; their car T-bones it, screeching to a halt. Another car pulls up alongside of them, boxing them in.
Two bowler hatted men jump out, carrying shotguns. “You will please give us the dagger. Move and you will die,” they say, pointing their guns at Pearkes, who had a thought about using his pistol.
Thinking fast, Freddie dexterously slips the dagger out of the box and replaces it with his letter-opener, which is approximately the same size. (It was also once General Marlborough’s letter-opener and a priceless family heirloom, but Freddie conveniently forgets this.) “No trouble, old man, here’s the box.”
The men take the box, and then gesture with their shotguns. “You will come with us.”
Gilbert jumps up too, as Freddie had expected. They are crammed into the rear seat, facing two angry looking little men with very large pistols.
As they begin to drive away, Pearkes sprints to the back of their car, MacDonald barking loudly in his tow. He manages to leap onto the trunk of the car. Thinking fast, he tries to slit the rear tire with his sword cane, but the wheels are out of reach.
Determined not to let the men get away, Pearkes draws his pistol and makes a brilliant shot, blasting the driver in the shoulder. Shrieking in agony, the little man barely clings to consciousness. The two gunmen inside the car both shoot at Pearkes, but the veteran of Passchendaele easily dodges.
Freddie kicks one of the gunmen in the face from his crouch by the door, spoiling his aim. Meanwhile, the second car pulls up behind them. Pearkes decides to leap onto its hood, but unfortunately the driver slams on the brakes, causing Pearkes to land hard face-down on the pavement. The second car speeds over him, leaving him bleeding in the street.
Consolidating their men into one car, the vehicle speeds into Chinatown, where Freddie and Gilbert are led into a closed up storefront. Thinking quickly, Freddie manages to drop the real dagger into a display of tourist junk.
In the backroom, they meet another bowler-hatted man. He is polite but harsh: “I will check to see if this is the correct item, and then I will let you go.”
Of course, inside the box is Marlborough’s letter-opener. The man is enraged. “Explain this,” he snarls at them, “and I will decide whether or not I should kill you on the spot.”
“Don’t look at me, old man. I just got rooked out of $65,000!”
“Could it be that I was cheated by the auction house? Damn them!” He rages violently, but Freddie manages to calm him down enough to decide not to kill one of New York’s more famous citizens. Leaving them tied up (and taking the letter-opener), he departs with his minions.
After a long hour, Gilbert manages to free them using muscles tuned from his study of savate. They stumble out into the Chinatown night. Lacking a car, they take the Subway, an experience Freddie is instantly enamored with.
The group converges on Freddie’s apartment. Elias, chain-smoking nervously, bursts into tears when Freddie hands her the dagger. Meanwhile, he has Shelia call up Bradley Grey for him.
“Dorian old chum!”
“….what can I do for you, Freddie?”
“Listen, old man, call up Sotheby’s and tell them I’m suing them for fraud! They sold me the wrong bloody dagger!”
Elias tells the group that she has one more lead to follow up on, and departs. Blont, Chiu, and Gilbert tail her cab.
“Follow that cab!” says Charleston as they pile into a car.
“What a novel expression! That’s the first time I ever heard that!”
They are temporarily foiled when Jax switches cabs at a light; the cabbie of the car they were following says that she jumped out at the intersection. Stumped momentarily, Blont recognizes one of the wise guys he knows from the streets.
“Yeah, Doc, the broad in the white hat? I seen her, she got in a cab and told it to go to the New Yorker Hotel.”
Having lost about fifteen minutes, the three investigators race to midtown and burst into the lobby.
“I’m sorry, sir, I have to protect the privacy of our guests,” says the clerk. He shows signs of being implacable on this matter.
The lights flicker momentarily. “The wiring in this place is terrible,” the clerk mutters.
Charleston tries to work him. “Listen, pal, I’m following my wife. I’m trying to make things up with her, and I just need to talk to her.”
A group of black men walk into the lobby, carrying tools. “Hey, you [racial slurs], get out of here. Go around to the service entrance!” shouts the clerk.
“But we are here to fix—”
“I don’t care! Get in back!” Turning back to Charleston, he says “Sorry, mac, nothing I can do. Listen, I’m gonna step out front for a cigarette,” and gives Chiu the high sign.
Blont, frustrated by the clerk’s seeming intransigence, simply walks outside, down the alley, and into the service entrance. He finds the elevator operator taking a cigarette break. “You new here?” he asks.
“Yeah. I’m the foreman of that repair crew. You just take them up?”
“Yeah, took ‘em up to 17. Give me a minute to finish this, and I’ll take you up. Wanna butt?”
“Thanks,” says Blont.
Gilbert decides to just push past. The hotel dick collars him. “Listen, we only allow guests back here, and we for sure don’t let punks with guns back here.”
Fortunately, a year of doing Freddie’s grunt work has left Gilbert prepared. “Listen, I’m a private dick myself—here’s my license. I’ve been watching that crew for weeks now, and I need to get up there to bust them!”
It takes some convincing, but the hotel dick is convinced. “All right, I’ll take you around back and send you up the service elevator.”
He meets Blont at the elevator and they ride up together to the seventeenth floor.
Outside, Chiu and the clerk share a cigarette. “Listen, buddy, I sympathize—got an ex-wife myself. Yeah, I gave that lady a room, 1705. When we get back in I’ll distract the dick and you can go on up.”
As he gets off the elevator on the 17th floor, two burly men wearing merchant marine uniforms of some kind manhandle an old man into the elevator. One sneers at Chiu. “Is not business,” he says, and slams the elevator gate shut. Shrugging, Charleston quietly breaks into room 1703, which, as luck would have it, has an adjoining door with 1705. Peering through the keyhole, he sees at least two men moving around, and no sign of Jackson.
Gilbert and Blont arrive. After listening intently for a moment, Gilbert sprints to 1705. He crouches by the door, and slowly opens it up a crack.
He can see a man standing in the corner, holding a club, and two other men near the bed. All the men are wearing African tribal masks. And stretched out on the bed is the unconscious body of Jackson Elias.
At that moment, Charleston bursts open his door. The man closest to the bed raises a dagger, ready to plunge it into Jackson’s chest. Chiu shoots him, spinning him around.
Gilbert bursts into the room and shoots the man standing in the corner. The man with a knife plunges it into Jackson’s stomach. Enraged, Blont shoots him in the chest.
Gilbert gets clubbed by the man. Charleston shoots the man with the knife again, dropping him. Blont fires from the doorway again, wounding the other man, who runs at the doorway that Charleston is crouching in. Gilbert blows off the top of the man with the club’s head.
Charleston fires again, plugging the last man right between the eyes. In just a few seconds, it is all over. Outside, the other patrons are panicking and screaming for the police.
Charleston quickly gathers up the guns and races to the basement, where he finds a service tunnel that eventually leads him to the subway station. He ditches the guns in an incinerator. Gilbert stays behind and uses his forensic knowledge to clean up Will Blont.
The cops arrive, and both of them are arrested and thrown behind bars—Blont to the drunk tank (sadly, a familiar locale) and Gilbert into a holding cell. He calls Freddie, who then phones Bradley Grey.
By early morning, the two have been arraigned and had all their charges dismissed, thanks to Grey’s legal wizardry. As they leave the precinct, a paperboy runs up and sells them a newspaper.
WHITE SLAVERY RING BROKEN UP IN HOTEL, screams the headline. ASSASSINS FOILED IN MIDTOWN.