Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe 17
enough to warrant a draft on my affection?”
    “Yes.” Marko was slightly annoyed too. “Damn it, didn’t I say so?”
    “Then I have no choice. Come to my office tomorrow at eleven and tell me about it.”
    “That won’t do,” Marko declared. “He’s in jail, charged with murder. I had a devil of a time getting to him this afternoon, with a lawyer. Danger is breathing down his neck and he’s nearly dead of fear. He is sixty-eight years old.”
    “Good heavens.” Wolfe sighed. “Confound it, there were things I wanted to talk about. And what if he killed that man? From the newspaper accounts it seems credible. Why are you so sure he didn’t?”
    “Because I saw him and heard him this afternoon. Virgil Pompa could conceivably kill a man, of course. And having killed, he certainly would have sense enough to lie to policemen and lawyers. But he could not look me in the eye and say what he said the way he said it. I know him well.” Marko crossed his chest with the knife as if it had been a sword. “I swear to you, Nero, he did not kill. Is that enough?”
    “Yes.” Wolfe pushed his plate. “Give me some more cheese and tell me about it.”
    “Le Bondon?”
    “All five, please. I haven’t decided yet which to favor.”
II
    At half-past eight the following morning, Wednesday, Wolfe was so furious he got some coffee in his windpipe. This was up in his bedroom, where he always eats breakfast on a tray brought by Fritz. Who got him sore was a butler—at least, the male voice on the phone was a butler’s if I ever heard one. First the voice asked him to spell his name, and then, after keeping him waiting too long, told him that Mrs. Whitten did not care to speak with any newspapermen. After that double insult I was surprised he even remembered there was coffee left in his cup, and it was only natural he should swallow the wrong way.
    Also we were up a stump, since if we were going to make a start at honoring Marko’s draft on Wolfe’saffection we certainly would have to get in touch with Mrs. Whitten or some member of the family.
    It was strictly a family affair, as we had got it from the newspapers and from Marko’s account of what Virgil Pompa had told him. Six months ago Mrs. Floyd Whitten had been not Mrs. Whitten but Mrs. H. R. Landy, a widow, and sole owner of AMBROSIA. You have certainly seen an AMBROSIA unless you’re a hermit, and have probably eaten in one or more. The only ones I have ever patronized are AMBROSIA 19, on Grand Central Parkway near Forest Hills, Long Island; AMBROSIA 26, on Route 7 south of Danbury; and AMBROSIA 47, on Route 202 at Flemington, New Jersey. Altogether, in twelve states, either ninety-four thousand people or ninety-four million, I forget which, eat at an AMBROSIA every day.
    H. R. Landy created it and built it up to AMBROSIA 109, died of overwork, and left everything to his wife. He also left her two sons and two daughters. Jerome, thirty-three, was a partner in a New York real estate firm. Mortimer, thirty-one, sort of fiddled around with radio packages and show business. And only the Internal Revenue Bureau, if anyone, knew how he was making out. Eve, twenty-seven, was Mrs. Daniel Bahr, having married the newspaper columnist whose output appeared in three times as many states as AMBROSIA had got to. Phoebe, twenty-four, had graduated from Vassar and then pitched in to help mama run AMBROSIA.
    But most of the running of AMBROSIA had been up to Virgil Pompa, after Landes death. Years ago Landy had coaxed him away from high cuisine by talking money, thereby causing him, as Marko had put it, to forfeit all claim to professional respect. But he had gained other kinds of respect and had got to beLandy’s trusted field captain and second in command. When Landy died Pompa had almost automatically taken over, but it had soon begun to get a little difficult. The widow had started to get ideas, one especially, that son Mortimer should take the wheel. However, that

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