I was sitting at the bar when the Warner case finally came up trumps. Saul Panzer and I had finally managed to corner Alicia Warner and were pumping her for information. Subtly, of course.
"Why did you kill him?" I said.
"I wasn't even in New York when he died," she said. She crossed her legs and flipped her long brown hair off of her shoulder. I followed the movement with perhaps more of an eye for aesthetics than for possible danger, but her dress was too sheer to hide a weapon anyway. At least that's what I told myself.
"Your husband was poisoned, Miss Warner," said Saul, quietly. "All you had to do was get some cyanide into his food. Did you have an accomplice?"
Her blue eyes fastened on him and she leaned forward, half-off her stool. One stiletto heel gently touched the floor.
"Call me Alicia, do," she said, her voice warm. "I didn't have an accomplice... Saul. I didn't kill poor Peter."
"Oh, sure, Alicia." I broke in. "You just happened to inherit all his money in a freak accident." I shook my head. "Give us a break. You were the only one who had both the motive and the means - you just paid somebody else to take the opportunity. Who was it?"
"There's no one," she breathed, still looking at Saul. "I swear."
I admit I was a bit miffed that she was pushing on Saul like that. For one thing, it's usually me that the women are throwing themselves at, and she was definitely worth catching, even if she did make a habit of sneaking into wills and then getting rid of her benefactors. For another, Saul wasn't giving the impression of appreciation. He was just sitting there, stock-still and cool as a cucumber. Every inch the professional, and showing me up by a mile. I was glad Wolfe wasn't there, as he has always questioned my so-called weakness for the curvier sex.
"We can't force you to say anything here, Miss Warner," said Saul. He didn't even look down from her face. "But we know you did it, and we will get proof."
She was starting to get annoyed at his lack of reaction - women always do. Hell, so do men. It's not fun to make an effort and get nothing out of it. She was game for another try, though, and she leaned further into Saul's space.
"Please, Saul, you have to believe me. I'm innocent." She even laid a hand on his knee. Saul picked it up and pushed her gently backwards.
"Sorry, Miss Warner." He let go of her hand as soon as she was all the way back in her seat.
Alicia was glaring now, a woman scorned and all that, and then her expression changed. She stared to glance between us, as if she was beginning to understand something.
"Don't mind Saul," I said, hurriedly. I could see what she was getting at, and I didn't want her making up stories out of it. "He's already got a wife. Very devoted. Me, I'm single." I gave her a grin and a tilt of the head. "Single and singularly interested in your possession of cyanide."
There. Nice, neat, and simple. It didn't hook her, but it threw her off Saul, which is what I'd hoped. She looked at me patronizingly.
"I'm done here," she said. She picked up her drink and shot it back before getting up. Saul helped her with her coat and I picked up her purse. She snatched it away from me before I could so much as feel it for bottles. Not that I'd been expecting her to carry the means around with her, but it has been know to happen. It was the reason why Saul and I hadn't touched our highballs.
She stalked out into the drizzling night. Saul and I followed and then watched as she hailed a taxi. Saul leaned against the wall of the bar and lit a cigarette. I did the same and we puffed together, the rain eating through the smoke.
"Hey, Archie." Saul's voice was as smooth as it ever was, but something about it was hesitant as he broke the silence.
"Why'd you give me a wife?" He wasn't looking at me, so I took my time looking at him. His hands were tense as he cupped his cigarette, sheltering it.
"You weren't showing interest, Saul. She was making inferences. We don't want inferences." He just stared at me, like he wasn't getting it. I tried to explain without offending him. "You know, she thought maybe you and me- that we were playing for the other team?"
I'd finally got through to Saul, but now he was looking a little worried.
"I was just trying to throw her off," I reassured him. "You've got no problems with me." I waved the hand holding my cigarette and then swore when the movement and the rain put it out.
"Give it here, Archie." Saul relit my cigarette from his and then handed it back. He started to walk to the car, and I pushed myself off of the wall.
"I'm not that way, you know," he said, when I'd caught up.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to assume." I had, though. Saul knew women, but I'd never known him to have much to do with them. I'd always figured that he was just discrete about his associations, with good reason. The cops liked to bust people's heads over who they were sleeping with, and Saul probably knew several officers that had it in for him personally, what with his choice of profession and the fact that he liked working for Nero Wolfe.
We were at the car, so I opened the doors and got in. Saul slipped into his seat and looked at the ceiling. He was dripping water onto the upholstery, but I didn't complain.
"I don't blame you," he said, quietly. "I know what people think. But I don't show interest because I'm just not interested. In anyone." He looked at me as if I was going to challenge him. I didn't see the point in that. Who he wanted and who he didn't wasn't any of my business until if and when it impacted the case.
"Okay," I said. I started the car. "Let's go see what the boys have dug up."
We'd kept Alicia Warner at the club long enough for Fred and Orry to go through her apartment. She didn't know we had found her little hideaway from the big family home, and it turned out she had been a little careless with what she'd left in filing drawers. Drawers with cheap locks, too. She confessed, in the end, and gave up her accomplice, some part-time gardener by the name of Talbot. Jury gave him twenty years to compare with her five, but that's the way of the world.
Saul, meanwhile, is glad I've let up on the wife cracks. I'm just happy that subsequent women have seen fit to ignore him and go for me. Maybe Alicia just didn't like the cut of my nose. I haven't said anything to Wolfe, though usually I end up mentioning gossip like this. If he knew Saul was guaranteed not to bring anyone home, wife or otherwise, I'd be out on my ear in five seconds flat.