A Problem Solved
Samantha was amazed. Dr. Narrison was actually worried. He said,
"Manfred doesn't seem to have changed. That means there's no reasoning with him if he doesn't get what he wants. He wants Sandy."
"I'm sure she doesn't want him. We talked just yesterday, and she's just about ready to call it off. I'd call the police, but they'd never believe that she's in danger."
"Exactly. You have to know Manfred. There wouldn't be any evidence until it's too late."
"Do you think he might have killed some other woman in the meantime?"
"Very possibly. But we haven't time to find out. I'll have to contrive to kill Manfred."
"Can you do it without getting caught?"
"It won't be easy. He'll certainly be on his guard."
"I'll scout around a little and see what I can find out."
Dr. Narrison looked unsure, but Samantha smiled winningly.
Samantha next called Susan Gatewood and asked,
"Would it be a normal thing for you to stay in the Palmer House overnight when the weather's bad?"
"I've done it several times. It's lovely and luxurious and far preferable to a long commute in the snow. I keep extra clothes here in the office just in case."
It was arranged that Susan would do so two nights hence, and that Samantha would come down to have dinner with her. However, Samantha suggested that it would be better to meet first to plan a few things.
Samantha had expected Susan to fly off the handle and call the police when she explained the matter of Manfred. At least, that was what Samantha's mother would have done. Susan didn't. She became unusually calm and rational. Then it occurred to Samantha that her mother could also be calm and calculating. It was just a difference of ends, as opposed to means. Samantha's mother happened to want to destroy Samantha's father. Susan wanted to save Dr. Narrison. Susan said,
"There's no recourse to law that will do any good here. But Sandy could just disappear."
"The problem there is that she herself doesn't recognize the danger. I've talked with her a little about it, and her only conclusion was to give him the air over the phone or by letter."
"That's not good enough."
"No. And even if she did flee, she'd have to practically start a new life in some distant place."
Susan nodded and replied,
"I can see why she wouldn't want to do that. No one would."
"We could hire a bodyguard, but they aren't foolproof against a really desperate man."
"I'm sure Fred's clever enough to outwit such a man."
Samantha agreed and added,
"I could do a better job of guarding her myself, but I wouldn't be able to do anything else for weeks or months."
"If Goodman does try to eliminate Fred, he'll either be killed himself or had up for murder. I'll do anything to help."
"I only need help in one respect. It occurred to me, even when I was talking with Dr. Narrison, that I can kill Manfred. No one would ever suspect me. I thought I'd do it tomorrow night in his room at the Palmer House."
Susan certainly looked surprised. Then, when she offered to participate, it was as if she were offering to assist at a charity art auction. Samantha replied,
"The first thing is to call Dr. Narrison and make sure he's at his rest home with witnesses around him."
"All right. But you'll need help with the actual operation."
"I planned to do it alone. But I wanted you to be here and say I was with you all evening, just in case. I'll only be absent from your room for ten or fifteen minutes, but I might have to get cleaned up afterwards."
At ten thirty, the maids who scurried along the corridors and barged unexpectedly into rooms with a light tap on the door and a pass key had all gone home. On a week-night with a light snow falling outside and no conventions in town the hotel was mostly empty.
Samantha and Susan walked down the two flights from Susan's room without incident and followed the room-number directions posted near the elevators. Their heels made no noise on the carpet, and they communicated only with glances and murmurs. When they knocked on the door, Manfred opened it, seemingly a little warily. Samantha, already having met him, smiled broadly and held up a bottle of wine without saying anything. Susan also smiled silently. Manfred laughed and invited them in, but Samantha whispered to him,
"We have to be quiet. Her husband's in a room just down the hall."
Manfred seemed to particularly enjoy this circumstance, and became very conspiratorial as he produced glasses. Samantha and Susan had decided, after some consideration, that he would be pleased to be visited by two elegant women. It was clear that they had been right.
Susan sat on the large bed while Samantha and Manfred took the chairs facing it. Susan said quietly,
"I hope you don't mind this intrusion. We've come from a wedding, and my husband wanted to just go to bed. But we decided that the night is still young."
They had agreed to the wedding story in order to explain their hats and gloves, and Manfred was entirely enthusiastic. In the moments that followed, Samantha realized that she had underestimated him at their previous meeting. For one thing, he could be the life of any party. He knew what to say, probably to almost anyone, and Susan actually seemed to like him. He was also self-deprecating and funny, and knew how to entertain two women without slighting either. When they were on the second glasses of wine, he remarked,
"Why don't you ladies take off a few things and make yourselves comfortable?"
"What do you think we should take off?"
"Hats, gloves, dresses. Things like that."
They all laughed and Samantha and Susan whispered together. Susan then replied,
"You may take off any two things from each of us, and then we'll take two things from you."
Samantha got up and stood in front of Manfred while Susan checked to see that the curtains were tightly closed. It was a new and unwelcome feeling for Samantha as Manfred undid the fastenings of her dress, rather expertly, but it wouldn't do to have it torn in the next operation. When the dress was down and she had stepped out of it, Samantha said,
"You could take one of my gloves next."
Manfred was having none of that. It looked as if he might take her bra, but he instead whisked her half slip to the floor. When she felt his hand on her bare waist, Samantha slid away.
Susan's dress had to come over her head, but she was careful to keep her little hat, with her hair pinned up underneath it, in place. She also had a half slip, but Fred elected to remove her bra. With her pale pink nipples showing prominently, Susan fended off Fred and announced,
"It's your turn now."
Fred smiled and agreed. Susan had him stand with his back to the bed and began to unbutton his shirt. Samantha got on the bed behind him and placed her hands on the two sides of his opened shirt, as if to remove it. He was actually joking, evidently without any misgivings whatever, as he ran his hands over Susan's bare shoulders and neck. She then unfastened his belt and trousers, sliding them down to his ankles with both her hands on the belt.
At the moment at which Fred's belt reached his ankles, Samantha slid her right hand inside his collar on the left side and her left hand inside his collar on the right side. The shirt was of good material which easily withstood the sudden yank of the judo choke hold.
Fred fell back on the bed, where Samantha scissored her legs around him. Susan had at the same time lifted the belt which was pulled tight around his ankles. The violent action of his body almost knocked her down, but, even though she still had on her high heels, she was able to withstand the successive thrusts.
As Samantha closed ever tighter, the prominent bone on the side of her wrist digging ever deeper into Fred's throat, the bed absorbed almost all the vertical forces. It seemed to Samantha that they would certainly go unremarked in a hotel which was constructed in such a way as to spare the residents of room X on floor Y the sounds of sexual intercourse taking place in room X on floor Y + 1.
When the odors indicated a release of urine and feces, Susan whispered,
"I believe we've done it."
Samantha hung on a little longer just to make sure while Susan got dressed. She then got dressed herself, but Susan noticed that her stockings were badly run where Manfred had torn at her legs. There were also some cuts on her legs, and they took with them the light bedspread, so as not to leave her bloodstains. After checking carefully for any hairs, they prepared to leave.
There was no one in the corridor when Susan peeked out, and they returned to her room without being seen. Susan then said,
"We didn't leave any finger-prints with our gloves, but his prints are all over our clothes."
Putting all the clothes they had worn, and the bedspread, into a couple of suitcases, they treated Samantha's cuts and got dressed. They then went downstairs for a drink.
Samantha, now wearing Susan's clothes, sat at the little cocktail table with one foot always in contact with the suitcases. They had agreed to carry on in a relaxed and normal way for the few people around to see, but they hadn't previously planned how to get rid of the contents of the suitcases. Susan said quietly,
"When anyone tries to throw away anything of value, there's always the danger that some garbage-can scavenger like Bernie Crum will rescue it."
"And it's so conspicuous to burn things in the city."
"Do you have a washing machine and dryer in the sorority house?"
"Yes, two sets."
"Pop everything in with lots of detergent, and set everything for the highest heat. Then run them through a second time. The delicate fabrics will be ruined, but they'll be clean."
"Okay. If any of the girls notice, it'll just be put down as another instance of my general hopelessness. Then, I'll gradually tear them up for dusting rags and throw them away."
They had previously decided that it might look suspicious if Susan abandoned the room she had booked, and there were hugs and kisses as Susan braved the light snow to put Samantha into a taxi.
Jemima was pushing Rebecca, who was eating one bagel and holding another, the latter theoretically intended for Jemima. Paul Hamilton and Dr. Narrison, each holding bagels, were walking alongside them. Dr. Narrison had just announced his forthcoming marriage. After being congratulated, he said,
"We're buying a house in the neighborhood here, so I'll be able to continue to enjoy these morning walks with all of you."
Jemima said with a smile,
"I bet you're marrying a young woman, Dr. Narrison."
"Yes, I'm following Paul's example. She's a lawyer downtown."
"She sounds very capable."
"Something that happened recently has made a great impression on me. Young women are amazingly capable these days. They do things that wouldn't have occurred to young women in my day."
"I bet your fiance can't sew on buttons."
Dr. Narrison smiled.
"Perhaps not. Of course, no one's perfect."